MIAMI, Fla. -- George Kittle’s bruising style of play can take a toll on his body, but since his rookie season, the 49ers tight end has been able to power through the injuries that would stop a normal person.
Since being drafted in 2017, Kittle has developed into the top playmaker for the 49ers' offense. But not too long ago Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch did have some concerns about the tight end following his first season with the club.
They were concerned about him staying healthy.
“I mean, football, which as I’ve learned over the years is availability is your best ability,” Kittle said. “Just being on the field playing. There’s an extent, playing hurt versus playing injured, it’s different. But if you can play, you can play, and you just want to be out there.”
Tight end coach Jon Embree believes there was a mental hurdle that Kittle needed to get over which is what happened during the offseason before his second season.
“His first year, the things he couldn’t control like the high ankle sprain, no matter what you do, you don’t control that,” Embree said. “I told him, instead of focusing on that, just focus on the fact that you played a lot of games hurt with that ankle. That showed his toughness.
“I think that helped him understand that when he is nicked up, he still plays at a very high level. I think going through what he went through that rookie year gave him that basically ‘you have to kill me to stop me’ mentality.”
That mentality is one part of Kittle’s makeup but there are several things that the tight end has learned through practicing yoga with his sister, Emma, to tips from veterans on the team.
“You just have to figure out how to do it,” Kittle said.
"Luckily for me, I had Garrett Celek which was awesome. The things I learned from him I still do to this day. Having a veteran like that my rookie year too, that helped me because he played plenty of seasons injured. For me it was if he can do it, I can do it and that was just kind of my mentality.”
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Embree believes that what Kittle does physically and mentally is invaluable to the team. The drive and effort that he puts into the game is contagious and you can see it throughout the locker room.
"He’s always going to, because of the way he plays, he’s always going to be someone who gets kind of nicked," Embree said. “He may miss a game here or there. But also I know he could be a great player and impact player for us at 70-percent, and that’s huge.”
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